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Le 14 juillet

Happy July 14th ("Bastille Day") to our French and francophile readers. Most of the content you have been reading for the past week or so has been prewritten and posted day by day while I am on vacation. Time with family has been restful and fun, and the fishing here at Coldwater Lake in southern Michigan has not been bad either. In honor of France's Independence Day, I offer the following special post.

In response to a rare political commentary earlier this month, it was suggested that what Ionarts needed was more Nat Hentoff. I have long admired Hentoff, whose various views often coincide with mine and not with any particular political party, but perhaps there are some readers who are not familiar with his point of view. His latest column (Blind to Torture, July 7) in The Village Voice was also published in conjunction with Independence Day and, just by chance, expressed something quite similar to what I was trying to say on July 4:

The countries actively permitting the kidnapping of suspects from their streets are Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, and Macedonia, Dick Marty notes. Providing “staging posts” — including logistical support — for these CIA agents and planes are Spain, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus. Also allowing stopovers for CIA planes on the way to torture chambers in such countries as Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Syria are Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece. Are any of those nations going to be held accountable by their courts and legislatures? Is the United States, where Congress has blocked any investigation of CIA renditions? Nor is there any insistent demand for investigations by the Democratic Party leadership. And in blue and red states, most of the citizenry seem blind and deaf to this “reprehensible network” of renditions initiated by the United States government — first in the Clinton administration, then greatly expanded by George W. Bush.

On June 8, the day after the release of the Council of Europe report, a lead editorial in the British Financial Times spoke the naked truth about “the outsourcing of torture to friendly despots … spreading like a lethal virus.” The United States and its European partners, the editorial continued, exemplify “a moral capitulation by liberal societies and a surrender of the rule of law in the face of jihadi totalitarianism. If we behave like this, what exactly are we defending?” What led to the suicides at our prisons in Guantanamo is also, of course, part of this surrender of our vaunted values.
It is that "surrender of our vaunted values" that had me so depressed on July 4, but Hentoff has described this one element of it much better than I could. If you want to read more, Nat Hentoff writes regularly for The Village Voice and Jewish World Review.

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